Academic journal article American Journal of Pharmaceutical Education

Examining Pharmacy Workforce Issues in the United States and the United Kingdom

Academic journal article American Journal of Pharmaceutical Education

Examining Pharmacy Workforce Issues in the United States and the United Kingdom

Article excerpt


Health care is an environment of constant evolution and growth. In the last several decades, the role of the pharmacist in the United States has shifted from being product-driven to a patient-focused, integrated member of the health care system. The profession has seen changes in training structures, increased uptake of postgraduate residency training, and growth in the need for services as a result of expansion of third-party coverage, community chain pharmacies, and ultimately, prescription volume. Today, pharmacists are confronted with a quickly aging patient population and health care reform that must be integrated into their practice. The past several years have also seen a rapidly expanding market of pharmacy schools and an increasing student enrollment. Concerns have emerged that this growth may be too expansive, possibly leading to a detrimental effect upon the future workforce and its sustainability within the job market.

This issue is not unique to the United States as similar apprehensions are being voiced in other developed areas of the world, namely in the United Kingdom, which has seen similar evolution of the pharmacy profession and now faces the same concerns regarding the expansion of enrollment and workforce. However, as the United Kingdom operates within the realm of the National Health Service (NHS), a publicly-funded health care system, the scope of and approach to the issue is different than those in the United States and may provide a useful comparison for understanding the issue and the approaches to address it.


Published data relating to the workforce, including supply and demand figures, planning assessments, and policy proposals and statements relevant to the pharmacy profession in the United States and United Kingdom were researched. Data were obtained from various sources, including PUBMED (for scientific literature), Internet search engines (for internal documents and news releases), and pharmacy organization websites (for policy and professional materials). Information was collated by country and supplemented with author analysis and assessment where appropriate.

RESULTS United States

The number of pharmacy schools in the United States has seen significant expansion in recent years--currently at 130 (full or candidate) accredited institutions, up from approximately 80 in 2000 (1,2)--and this expansion is primed to provide an increasing number of professionals. The number of students in doctor of pharmacy (PharmD) programs has also increased dramatically, with growth in enrollment from 2.9% to 8.4% per year over the previous decade. (2) Several commentaries have been published in the American Journal of Pharmaceutical Education expressing concern over this increase and its downstream effects upon the pharmacy job market. (3-5) The predominant question is whether this educational expansion will be matched with increased availability of jobs for pharmacists.

The most recent job outlook figures for pharmacists from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) at the US Department of Labor predict more than 41 000 new positions (a 14% increase) by 2022. (6) Much of this growth depends on 2 factors: first, the Affordable Care Act (ACA) expanding health care to millions of currently uninsured Americans, and second, an increased need for services for an aging population with more complex medication needs. (6) Additionally, the overall health care industry is expected to expand as the economy recovers. Pharmacists near retirement, who continued working through the recession, will exit the job market as the economy improves, specifically expanding the need for newer professionals. The BLS states that a robust recovery from the recent recession is necessary to see industry and job expansion. In 2013, the Federal Reserve indicated the US economy was still below full health, (7) and, in a survey of 200 top employers, the Business Roundtable found less than one-third of respondents were expecting to increase employment and one quarter were instead looking to lay off workers. …

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